Albertans can be forgiven if they think they are experiencing deja vu.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced increased COVID-19 restrictions over the supper hour Tuesday, many of the restrictions come into effect tonight at midnight, while a transition of all schooling from kindergarten and up to online taking effect Friday and will be in effect for at least three weeks.
Restrictions on restaurants and personal wellness services become effective at 11:59 p.m. on May 9.
“The city recognizes that the Province of Alberta is in a tough position,” Grande Prairie Mayor Jackie Clayton said shortly after the premier’s announcement. “In our community, people are very split on COVID and how to protect their loved ones. We recognize everyone is in a tough position to balance different needs, whether it is to save your business or it is trying to protect loved ones or seniors in your life.
“Our community so far has really rallied together, and we recognize people are tired. It is important for us to understand that the community has worked hard to fight COVID for over a year and has demonstrated incredible resilience. It is a tough decision for the province, but it is even tougher for business owners and families as they prepare for the next weeks ahead.”
Clayton added she is unsure if the new regulations will impact the city’s Enforcement Services branch, which along with the RCMP, hand out any fines that Kenney announced are doubling to $2,000 from the current $1,000.
“From what we heard tonight, the fines have increased, but we haven’t been notified about any additional local stress put onto our local enforcement,” the mayor said.
She added the city had no input into the province’s decision to deal with climbing infection rates that threaten the medical system in Alberta.
“Since the start of the pandemic, we have looked to the province’s health expert to make the decisions for communities, including Grande Prairie,” Clayton said. “They have the data on the cases and the outbreaks, and they have the appropriate staff to interpret that data. We haven’t had any input on these decisions.”
According to the mayor, the relatively healthy demand for vaccinations at the Teresa Sargent Rapid Flow Vaccination Clinic is positive. She added news that Phase 3 of vaccination, in which any adult who wants to be vaccinated can be, maybe just around the corner, is also encouraging.
“From everything we have seen, uptake to the vaccinations that are available in our community has been great,” Clayton said. “People are signing up for vaccinations, and we are distributing all the (vaccines) that we get.
“I think that is a great opportunity as they allow more vaccinations for a larger group of people. We encourage everyone to follow the advice of health experts and follow the restrictions put forward by the province. At this time, we haven’t heard of any more than normal (vaccines) being sent to our community, but we are optimistic with this announcement that we will see more.”
Clayton encourages residents to co-operate with the new measures.
“As the premier indicated, abiding by the provincial regulations will get us to a different place this summer,” Clayton said. “We are optimistic about what that will look like. Everyone has a role in making this a success, and we understand it is a difficult and tiring situation for everyone. To make it easier, we need to be able to support the restrictions and encourage people to follow the restrictions that were set forward.”
Some of the restrictions listed by the province include:
Effective May 5
- Post-secondary schools will transition to online learning (K-12 will be online beginning May 7 until May 25.)
- Childcare facilities can remain open.
- All indoor gatherings remain prohibited, while outdoor groups are limited to five people.
- People from outside the same household must maintain physical distancing at all times.
- Retail outlets are limited to a customer capacity of 10 per cent of fire code or a minimum of five people
- All places of worship are limited to 15 in-person attendees
- Funerals limited to 10 people maximum, including participants and guests.
- Any workplace, except work camps and essential and critical services, with the transmission of three cases or more will be required by health officials to close for 10 days.
- Working at home is mandatory unless the employer requires an employee’s physical presence to operate effectively.
Effective May 9
- Patios and outdoor dining at restaurants are closed, with take-out and delivery remaining the only options
- All indoor sports performance and recreation activities are prohibited, and all fitness and recreation facilities, including one-on-one training, must close.
- All outdoor sports and recreation activities with anyone but family members (or two close contacts if you live alone) are prohibited.
- Personal and wellness services, including hair salons, barbers, nail salons, estheticians, tattoos and piercing, must close.